Ten of New Zealand's surf sport athletes are gearing up to race under the Silver Fern at the 10th anniversary of the Sanyo Cup in Japan.
The Sanyo Cup is an annual beach competition hosted by the Japan Lifesaving Association and this year it will be held at the Momochi Seaside Park in Fukuoka from June 24-25 and New Zealand will join teams from Australia, USA, The Netherlands, South Africa, Hong Kong and Japan.
Last year's event saw the Kiwis start out strong on the first day of competition, finishing in first place on the points table. However, some strong performances from the Australians on Day Two saw them finish second overall.
Team Manager Steve Vaughan says their goal this year is to take the step up into high level international competition, to have solid race plans, focus on the process and let the results take care of themselves.
The team is led by Jess Miller who is taking part in her third Sanyo Cup and is the defending Ironwoman champion from 2016.
Mr Vaughan says she will look to lead her team from the front and set the benchmark for performance on tour.
"There is a lot of talented young athletes in this group, fizzing and ready to fire and make New Zealand proud," he says.
The Kiwis have been traveling to the Sanyo Cup for many years now and familiarity with the event will be an advantage in respect to preparation however only three have previously competed at a Sanyo Cup and Fukuoka is a new city for all of the athletes.
"We have a lot of experience we can tap into, to provide our team with the best opportunities to perform to their highest level. However, with a new venue and different countries in attendance, there is still an element of the unknown which makes it exciting and a challenge to look forward to," he says.
Momochi Beach is a man-made beach near the centre of Fukuoka City, surrounded by islands, breakwaters and a peninsula.
"We're expecting flat, long racing conditions and it will likely be very hot," he says.
New Zealand are the current world champions and Mr Vaughan says that can create an expectation and put a target on each of the athletes' backs as other countries will be desperate to challenge and beat them.
"Unsurprisingly Australia will provide a stern test of our team, but each of the other countries have improved exponentially in recent years. They all have high quality athletes who will be striving to take out each race."
Together with coach Danny Morrison, the team will arrive in Japan next Wednesday, one day earlier than the other teams, which will assist with their recovery and preparation ahead of the weekend.
The two days of racing will include events such as Surf Race, Board Race, Oceanman/woman, Beach Flags, Beach Sprint, Board Rescue Tube Rescue, Oceanwoman Relay and Beach Relay.
Mr Vaughan says this is an amazing opportunity to take an extraordinarily talented bunch of young athletes away to pit themselves against a group of highly talented international athletes.
"It will test their skills and give them a great bench mark from which to further develop as surf sports athletes in the years ahead. To race under the Silver Fern is special to each of these athletes and I am sure they will make themselves, their families and the New Zealand surf lifesaving community proud."
To keep up-to-date with the journey, visit the SLSNZ High Performance Facebook page or on Twitter and Instagram @SLSNZHP.
Sanyo Cup: New Zealand team
Jessica Miller - Mt Maunganui (captain)
Casie Fyall - Waikanae
Claudia Kelly - East End
Libby Bradley - Mt Maunganui
Samalulu Clifton - Mairangi Bay
Bayden Botha - Mairangi Bay
Hamish Miller - Mt Maunganui
Javon McCallum - Fitzroy
Atakura Julian- Lyall Bay
Ben Johnston- Papamoa
Danny Morrison - Coach
Steven Vaughan - Manager
Lisa Smith, Media & Communications Manager, SLSNZ
Phone 0276 488 823